Darfur refugee Guy Josif speaks at Northwestern


Brian Lee/Daily Senior Staffer

Guy Josif, a survivor of the Darfur genocide, speaks Tuesday in Annenberg Hall. The Fiedler Hillel Center, Challah for Hunger and the Northwestern University Community for Human Rights sponsored the event.

Jordan Harrison, Assistant Campus Editor

Guy Josif doesn’t know exactly how old he is, but he said he was probably 10 or 11 years old when a nomadic Arab militia attacked his village in Darfur, Sudan.

The Fiedler Hillel Center, Challah for Hunger and the Northwestern University Community for Human Rights brought Josif, a Darfur genocide survivor, to speak in Annenberg Hall on Tuesday.

Alix Sherman, a family friend of Josif’s from Oak Park, Illinois, introduced Josif and talked about his experience applying for asylum.

Josif said he escaped genocide in Darfur and fled to Khartoum, but was arrested and tortured by government security forces. He then decided to take refuge in Israel by crossing through Egypt.

Currently, Josif attends the College of Lake County in Grayslake, Illinois, but until he is granted asylum in the United States, he cannot get a job and relies on fundraising efforts to pay for tuition.

Josif said after arriving in the U.S., he heard his brother was alive and living in Israel.

SESP junior Brian Lasman, vice president of Hillel, said Josif’s sponsors contacted Hillel to share his story with the organization and to ask if Hillel would be interested in hosting Josif as a speaker. Hillel then brought in Challah for Hunger and NUCHR.

“It seemed really interesting,” he said. “It seemed like it aligned with our mission, so Hillel as an organization decided to take it on. And then in turn we reached out to two co-sponsoring groups: Challah for Hunger … their primary beneficiary is the American Jewish World Service which donates their proceeds to refugees in Darfur, so there was the connection there, and then there was also NUCHR — this is very much related to human rights.”

Weinberg junior Iszy Licht said he was interested in Josif’s story because he has been involved in STAND, an anti-genocide group.

“I’ve been learning about Darfur and human rights abuses in that region of the world really since my sophomore year of high school,” he said. “It was really interesting not only to talk about it abstractly, but to really hear someone who’s actually lived what I’ve been learning about.”

At the end of the event, Josif held a question-and-answer session where students asked questions about the refugee community in Israel, his education in the U.S. and his religious beliefs following the genocide. He said he enjoyed his American education and decided to convert to Christianity because of the violence he witnessed as a child.

Josif said he hopes other refugees can access the education he has received.

“There are a thousand people like me,” he said. “They are not getting their rights, and they deserve an education.”

Through all his hardships, Josif said he is thankful to be able to pursue an education.

“Together we may try to change something one day, provide a safe place for even one person or two, as much as we are able to do,” he said.

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